Thursday, May 31, 2012


Via Wonkette, it appears that a woman with the Twitter name @pennyd2 was sitting next to Michele Bachmann on a flight. At the time, Bachmann was reading ... well, let Penny explain:

The book's Web site has been located -- the full title is Shariah: The Threat to America: Report of Team B II. (I'm not sure what happened to Team B I, if there ever was one.) The book is a group effort -- but guess who the lead author is?

US Army (Ret.), former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence

Yup, this guy:

Boykin achieved widespread media coverage for his statements that appeared to frame the War on Terror in religious terms, first broadcast on NBC News, October 15, 2003.... [A Los Angeles Times] article revealed Boykin giving a speech about hunting down Osman Atto in Mogadishu: "He went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, 'They'll never get me because Allah will protect me. Allah will protect me.' Well, you know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

More recently, Boykin has been saying stuff like this:

Every expert will tell you that by the middle of this century the continent of Europe will be an Islamic continent, and they can't reverse it, they can't stop it. It is because they took Jesus out of their societies and it's been replaced by darkness. Any time there is a void it will be replaced by the Enemy, and the Enemy is unquestionably real and he is in fact called Satan, and that is something that people in this country have not yet figured out.

And this:

Seal the borders and eliminate sanctuary cities and they'll go home. No mosques in America. Islam is a totalitarian way of life; it's not just a religion.

And having chat-ups like this:

Self-proclaimed “ex-terrorist” Kamal Saleem ... sat down again with fellow anti-Muslim activists Jerry Boykin and Rick Joyner on Prophetic Perspectives where he warned that as part of the effort of Muslim-Americans to usher in an Islamic theocracy, they are replacing the words "In God We Trust" on the dollar with "In Allah We Trust"...

He was forced to withdraw from a talk at West Point for his anti-Muslim views.

But Michele Bachmann reads him -- and she, in theory, could have become America's commander in chief. What a country.

Every mainstream pundit in America told you that Mitt Romney would spend the period after he effectively clinched the GOP nomination moving to the center. Um, we're still waiting. What he's been giving us instead is wingnut porn: Trump earlier in the week, and today a visit to the headquarters of Solyndra -- the solar company whose name works on wingnuts the way telescreen clips of Emmanuel Goldstein work on the residents of Oceania.

And if that isn't enough to get Fox viewers drooling -- which seems to be all Romney wants to do right now -- he compounded the calculated appeal to right-wingers by actually trying to sound as paranoid as Richard Nixon:

Mitt Romney's campaign justified its secrecy in setting up a press conference in front of Solyndra's California headquarters Thursday by warning of a conspiracy by White House officials to potentially sabotage their efforts.

"We knew, if word got out, that Solyndra would do everything in their power, and the Obama administration would do everything in their power, to stop us from having this news conference,"an unnamed adviser told reporters, per CNN.

Reporters raised the question of how this devious plot to derail the event would work, given that the freedom to hold a press conference in public is a fairly basic right.

"Well, he's only the president of the United States," the adviser replied. "I mean, they could work with town officials to deny us access."

Romney alluded to similar concerns in his press conference.

"I think there are people who don't want to see this event occur, don't want to have questions asked about this particular investment," Romney told reporters when asked about the secrecy behind the event, according to the New York Times.

I'd call this black-helicopter talk catnip for right-wingers, but it's more like crack, or bath salts. This stuff makes them crazy.


Who's advising Romney to focus on revving up the base rather than the middle? Karl Rove? Roger Ailes? Is Romney doing this because he thinks he'll win if rich super PAC donors give even more than the gazillion dollars they've pledged to give to buy him the presidency? Does he think they watch Fox News all the time (which may be true), and that they won't back him if he doesn't ride the same hobbyhorses as Fox?

Are they insisting that he go birther? Is that the point of Trump?

Or is Ailes whispering Trump's name in Romney's ear? Trump is still the object of hero-worship at Fox -- there was Sean Hannity last night saying, "You know who I am really happy with? Donald Trump" -- and, a week ago, acclaiming Trump as an "iconoclastic" guy who "lays it on the line." The panelists on The Five lavishing praise on Trump a couple of days ago. ("He's an American icon!” "He connects with the modern man." "He represents ... a new GOP." "He has a blue-collar approach to life.") In just one week earlier this spring, Trump got 34 minutes on Bill O'Reilly's show plus segments on three other Fox shows.

Fox loves Trump. Romney now embraces Trump. A shared strategy? Or is Romney doing as he's told?

Well, we should have seen this coming:

Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod was shouted down Thursday at an event in Boston that was staged to attack Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts.

Axelrod called the press conference to hammer home the Obama campaign's critique of Romney's time as governor, and brought along officials from around the state to reinforce the message.

But the pro-Obama speakers had to shout to be heard over the "boos" from Romney supporters who showed up for the event....

Mitt Romney has made a habit of using "I'm rubber, you're glue" rhetoric in attacking President Obama -- calling Obama "out of touch" after being called that himself, responding to Obama's recent statement on gay marriage by charging that Obama is a flip-flopper -- and now it appears that the Romney campaign is stealing tactics from Team Obama.

You may recall that there was a great hue and cry when Mitt Romney visited an inner-city neighborhood in Philadelphia and pro-Obama hecklers showed up. Right-wingers were outraged. Rush Limbaugh threw around accusations of reverse racism.

And the folks on Team Romney, who apparently require revenge the way you and I require oxygen, evidently decided that the proper course of action was payback.

Romney supporters responded by chanting "Solllyyynndraaa" like Bruins fans heckling the visiting team.

After he finished his remarks, Axelrod opened the floor to questions, but he couldn't hear reporters over the protests.

It's not the deployment of hecklers that shows immaturity -- that's politics. It's the desperate need to avenge every slight. That's not how mature people behave.

One thing we know for certain: If Romney wins the presidency, the grownups won't be in charge.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)

Politico's lead story right now:

To GOP, blatant bias in vetting

On the front page of its Sunday edition, the New York Times gave a big spread to Ann Romney spending lots of time and tons of money on an exotic genre of horse-riding. The clear implication: The Romneys are silly rich, move in rarefied and exotic circles, and are perhaps a tad shady.

Only days earlier, news surfaced that author David Maraniss had unearthed new details about Barack Obama's prolific, college-age dope-smoking for his new book, "Barack Obama: The Story" -- and the Times made it a brief on A15.

No wonder Republicans are livid with the early coverage of the 2012 general election campaign. To them, reporters are scaring up stories to undermine the introduction of Mitt Romney to the general election audience -- and once again downplaying ones that could hurt the president....

Here's the difference, Politico: Maybe if Mitt Romney had written candidly about dressage in a book seventeen years ago, the Times wouldn't have considered it a big news story now. Maybe if the Romney had answered questions about the dressage issue in the last primary season -- perhaps even as early as 2006 -- the Times wouldn't be putting it on the front page now. Maybe if Romney, in the last primary season, had joked about dressage, including on national television, the Times wouldn't be making a big deal of it today. Maybe if Romney had weathered attacks on his dressage habits four years ago from a campaign surrogate of a primary opponent, there would be little press interest now.

Do we really have to explain these things to Romney and his enablers?

(X-posted at Balloon Juice.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


The four-minute Fox & Friends anti-Obama ad may not show a greater degree of contempt shown for the president than the show's typical content, and, as an ad, it may not be unusually harsh by contemporary right-wing standards (it's just longer, like a turgid metal anthem done in a prolonged, elephantine live version), but it still crosses a line. We put different types of political speech in different pigeonholes, or we did until now -- Fox & Friends is hours every day of anti-Democratic, anti-liberal chatter, but it's chatter. Political ads are supposed to appear in ad slots; they're heavy, concentrated doses of manipulative overkill, and we expect them to be where they traditional are. This crossed over. It was product placement.

Now, when I think of Fox crossing this line, I think of this news story from 2010:

Fox News has won a front-row seat in the White House press room after the shakeup following the retirement of the longest-serving journalist in the presidential residence....

The White House Correspondents Association agreed to move the Associated Press to the front row, center seat, which had been held by Helen Thomas, who retired in June....

The new arrangement allowed the conservative Fox News to snag the front row seat previously occupied by AP. National Public Radio got the second row seat previously held by Fox, next to Bloomberg News.

"It was a very difficult decision," said the association, which is a self-governing body of the correspondents assigned to the White House.

"The board received requests from Bloomberg and NPR in addition to Fox for relocation to the front row and felt all three made compelling cases. But the board ultimately was persuaded by Fox's length of service and commitment to the White House television pool." ...

T%he White House should respond to this Fox & Friends attack ad by bouncing Fox -- and I mean bouncing Fox altogether. No front row, no row at all. The lefty groups that tried to keep Fox out of the front row, saying it "is a right-wing propaganda operation, not a legitimate news organization," have been proven right -- and not for the first time today.

It's war. The White House won't shoot back, but it should. Do that, and then keep fighting. Fox can't be appeased.


I'm fascinated by the way Mitt Romney has become a proud, unabashed moral relativist.

It used to be that politicians dissociated themselves from supporters or staffers who said or did unsavory things because they wanted to be seen as believers in the notion that life requires certain standards of conduct. A lot of this has always been self-serving, of course, but the point has always been to identify oneself with the notion that there really are lines of decency that shouldn't be crossed.

Mitt Romney, as Byron York reminds us, thinks the morality of one's associates is irrelevant and calling out improper conduct is nothing but theater. He's not gonna live by your bourgeois, petty moral standards, maaaan!

Team Romney: Not gonna play repudiation game

Mitt Romney's refusal to repudiate Donald Trump sends a signal, both to Democrats and the voting public: With the nation's future at stake in this November's election, Romney will not accommodate calls that he disown supporters who make ill-considered, unpopular, or sometimes outrageous statements on matters not fundamental to the campaign.

(Let's stop right there -- what if Barack Obama had declared in 2008 that he wouldn't play the "repudiation game" with regard to "outrageous statements" such as ... oh, say, years-old remarks about America made by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright? Would Romney have backed up Obama's decision? I'm guessing not.)

[One] reason Romney is wary of such concessions is that John McCain tried them, and they didn't do him any good. For example, in February 2008, a local Ohio radio host, Bill Cunningham, introduced McCain at a rally in Cincinnati. In the introduction, Cunningham referred to Obama three times by his full name, which at the time some Republicans feared would open them up to unspecified accusations of intolerance. "At one point, the media will quit taking sides in this thing," Cunningham said, "and start covering Barack Hussein Obama." McCain immediately apologized and disavowed Cunningham's remarks. Eleven months later, of course, Obama took the oath of office, beginning, "I, Barack Hussein Obama..." In retrospect, the Cunningham episode looked ridiculous.

Er, no. In retrospect, McCain looks wise. A couple of months later -- mere days before the election -- Cunningham declared that "Obama wants to gas the Jews." A couple of weeks prior to that, he said:

And around Ohio, the number [of newly registered voters] is 666,000. Six-six-six. The mark of the beast. The great majority, of course, are registered by ACORN. The mark of the beast. And who is the beast? Who gave ACORN $800,000 as part of this criminal conspiracy? Who was the lawyer for ACORN? Who conducted ACORN seminars to tell ACORN employees and others how to cheat the system? Barack Hussein Obama. I may declare him to be the beast. Six-six-six. It could be the end of all days.

Would it have helped McCain to have those clips on the news after his own failure to distance himself from Cunningham?

And why are McCain's repudiations the only ones we're talking about here? Obama repudiated Wright, and Obama won. Why is Romney so certain that repudiation equals perceived weakness? Does he really believe that?

I also wonder if Romney just has a visceral desire to out-macho his predecessor at the top of the GOP ticket the way George W. Bush wanted to out-macho his own father (and, possibly, Romney wants to out-macho his).

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)

Right-wingers are attacking President Obama for a remark at yesterday's Medal of Honor Freedom ceremony that Poles regard as offensive:

Poles and Polish-Americans expressed outrage today at President Obama's reference earlier to "a Polish death camp" -- as opposed to a Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland.

"The White House will apologize for this outrageous error," Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski tweeted. Sikorski said that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk "will make a statement in the morning. It's a pity that this important ceremony was upstaged by ignorance and incompetence."

The president had been trying to honor a famous Pole, awarding a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a resistance fighter who sneaked behind enemy lines to bear witness to the atrocities being committed against Jews. President Obama referred to him being smuggled "into the Warsaw ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself."

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement, "The President was referring to Nazi death camps operated in Poland. The President has demonstrated in word and deed his rock-solid commitment to our close alliance with Poland." ...

The right-wingers who want to argue that this is some sort of uniquely Obama-esque gaffe need to know that, for better or worse, this happens all the time. Here's a 2009 story at

American broadcaster CNN has apologized Poland for using a phrase "polish death camps" during their Tuesday's report of "March of the living" in Auschwiz-Birkenau.

Using words "polish death camps" on information strip during other news CNN joined a large group of broadcasters. Similar phrases were used by ABC News, CBS News and newspapers New York Times, Die Welt and The Guardian. Especially distasteful is the usage of phrase by the German newspaper.

Also republican senator Sam Brownback from Kansas used a phrase "polish concentration camp" while speaking in Congress about the film telling the story of Irena Sendlerowa. Poles demand a disclaimer in Congress from him.

Wow -- even a Republican has done this!

Also guilty of this have been Ha'aretz, USA Today, the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the Associated Press, The Buffalo News, Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper and broadcaster CTV, The Toronto Star, and the British comedian Stephen Fry. And that's just a list of people and organizations that have been reproached for it.

Oh, one more: Fox News.

Yes, it would have been better if the administration had avoided the gaffe, but it's quite a common gaffe.

After a lot of talk about Mitt Romney's bizarre infatuation with Donald Trump, we got something we weren't asking for last night: the release of Mitt Romney's birth certificate (or at least a 2012 copy of it -- remember how a modern copy of Obama's birth certificate wasn't good enough for the birthers?). I was as baffled by the Romney camp's decision to release the certificate as I have been by his Trump fixation -- but when I started to read the Reuters story about the release of the document, I began to suspect a strategy on Team Romney's part:

Romney's birth certificate evokes his father's controversy

...So on a day when real estate and media mogul Donald Trump was trying to help Mitt Romney by stirring up a new round of questions about whether Democratic President Barack Obama was born in the United States, Romney's own birth record became a reminder that in the 1968 presidential campaign, his father had faced his own "birther" controversy.

... Records in a George Romney archive at the University of Michigan describe how questions about his eligibility to be president surfaced almost as soon as he began his short-lived campaign.

In many ways, they appear to echo today's complaints that Trump and some other conservative "birthers" have made about Obama....

In George Romney's case, most of the questions were raised initially by Democrats....

As early as February 1967 - a year before the first 1968 presidential primary - some newspapers were raising questions....

Is the campaign of the famously father-obsessed Mitt Romney feeding the press not only the birth certificate but the sob story? Is that why Romney and his people thought they could withstand any negative press from Trump's birtherism -- because their plan all along was to say, "Hey, Mitt Romney's father was the victim of birthers, too"?

Are they jealous of Obama's birther problem? Do they think it wins him sympathy? Do they want some of that sympathy for themselves?


Elsewhere in the press, I see suggestions that -- wahhhh! -- Mitt himself is a victim of birthers, although there's scant evidence. A New York magazine blog post is headlined "In Unexpected Twist, Birthers Turn Against Romney" -- though no birthers are identified who are actually turning against Romney. We do, however, get a quote from Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, who said, before the release of the birth certificate, that there was debate out there among the rabble about ... whether Romney's middle name is Mitt or Milton. Um, really? Is this a burning issue, even among crazies?

Yesterday, Milbank published a column referencing the Mitt/Milton question, and also mentioning a joke site suggesting that Romney needs to prove he's not a unicorn.

I think the Romney camp wants this discussion, out of the hope that it neutralizes the question of birtherism altogether -- if both sides can point to a history of victimization, the Romney's backers (including Trump) aren't especially crazy and Obama's not being singled out.

Am I crazy to see that as the strategy? If so, feel free to tell me why.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, in an interview with Fox's Neil Cavuto, Mitt Romney said:

"Well, I think you're going to find throughout this campaign season that the president's team will be doing everything in their power to try and hold up various shiny objects. Many of them will be in regard to me, some will be with regards the president's policies or promises of some new major giveaway.

"All these things designed to take people's eyes off the ball, which is the massive deficit this president has put in place, his inability to develop our energy resources in this country, his ObamaCare, which is not attractive at all to the American people. And an economy which is stumbling along..."

In other words: there are two kinds of things we can talk about in this campaign -- what Mitt Romney wants to talk about ... and distractions.

According to Jennifer Rubin, the insane obsession of one of Romney's chief fund-raisers and surrogates, a man with whom Romney has chosen to appear at more than one campaign event, is a "shiny object":

The notion that Donald Trump's fundraiser is some kind of debacle for Mitt Romney is one more “shiny object” stunt that is a transparent diversion by the Obama campaign so the media will avoid examining President Obama’s record. And it’s yet another indication of just how in-the-tank-for-Obama is so much of the media coverage....

But here's how "shiny objects" work on the other side. The right-wing base isn't really motivated to vote for Mitt Romney, whose full commitment to the Cause is suspect. So the right keeps ginning up stories meant to enrage the base and make sure that the crazies in the base think the whole country is going to hell in a handbasket and the only possible salvation is the defeat of Barack Obama. These things don't even have to be connected to Obama -- the base sees everything to the left of the GOP as one hydra-headed evil octopus, so the right-wing blog obsession of the past few days -- Brett Kimberlin -- serves as a "shiny object" meant to distract from Romney's weaknesses as a candidate (right-wingers are being victimized by the liberal media, and the liberal criminal justice system, and liberal George Soros-funded organizations!). So is the sting video released by the anti-abortion group Live Action, in which a Planned Parenthood staffer who's since been fired agrees to help a right-wing activist posing as a woman who wants a sex-selection abortion. It's all meant to keep the base enraged. It's all meant to advance the Cause. It's all meant to make righties feel outgunned and under siege, with their vote of November being their last chance to avoid extermination or an irreversible totalitarian hell.

When our side talks about Trump, it's because Mitt Romney has done everything in his power to cozy up to Trump short of putting the loutish SOB on the ticket. He's Romney's highest-profile surrogate. Why is Romney's press secretary-wannabe acting as if talking about him and his cockamamie ideas is somehow out of bounds for Obama supporters?

Is David Brooks trying to tell us in today's column that, hlike much of the modern conservative movement, he thinks the twentieth century should be repealed? Or -- and this would be worse, because it's both heartless and gutless -- is he trying to have it both ways, endorsing Gilded Age sink-or-swim economics while seeming not to, because he doesn't want to turn in his nice-guy card and give up his NPR gig and his book signings in politically moderate suburbs?

Brooks starts by praising Alexander Hamilton as a guy who really knew what government ought to be doing: encouraging business and not worrying about whether people are starving. Then he tells us that the Hamiltonian approach has been undermined:

The abandonment came in three phases. First, the progressive era. The progressives were right to increase regulations to protect workers and consumers. But the late progressives had excessive faith in the power of government planners to rationalize national life....

Second, the New Deal. Franklin Roosevelt was right to energetically respond to the Depression. But the New Deal's dictum -- that people don't eat in the long run; they eat every day — was eventually corrosive. Politicians since have paid less attention to long-term structures and more to how many jobs they "create" in a specific month. Americans have been corrupted by the allure of debt, sacrificing future development for the sake of present spending and tax cuts.

Third, the Great Society. Lyndon Johnson was right to use government to do more to protect Americans from the vicissitudes of capitalism. But he made a series of open-ended promises, especially on health care. He tried to bind voters to the Democratic Party with a web of middle-class subsidies.

In each case, a good impulse was taken to excess. A government that was energetic and limited was turned into one that is omnidirectional and fiscally unsustainable.

This sinister process -- a distortion of the Founders' intent that started with the Progressives -- is "omnidirectional." It's got us caught in a "web." We are now "corrupted." It's all "corrosive." Hmmm -- where have I heard that before?

Beck: All right, now, if all of this sounds like a government out of control, go back to the progressive movement. It is not what our founders of this country intended. One hundred years of this movement, and the government growing while our rights are shrinking. I've been saying now for awhile, and it really has clicked in my mind, um, that it is the progressive movement, it is the cancer that is inside both parties. It's why you don't feel like there is a choice. It's why John McCain and Barack Obama, you're going, 'You gotta be kidding me, right?'

Tell me what the difference is. I'm having trouble figuring that out.

Oh, yeah, I'm know: Brooks is upset only at the excess. So how does he define that excess?

A government that was trusted and oriented around long-term visions is now distrusted because it tries to pander to the voters' every momentary desire.

What are some of these "momentary desires," David? The desire not to eat out of dumpsters in your old age, or after being sacked when a venture capital firm buys your company? Is that what you mean?

Brooks won't say. This is how he keeps his nice-guy status while endorsing the Beck line: Oh, I'm just against the bad parts of the Progressive Era and the New Deal and the Great Society. You know what the bad parts are -- they're the parts that are bad!

Or perhaps Brooks's very next sentence is an example of what he means:

A government that devoted its resources toward future innovation and development now devotes its resources to health care for the middle-class elderly.

That's right -- health care for the middle-class elderly is, to Brooks, the moral equivalent of ... what? Having a one-night stand while high on cocaine? That's the kind of thing I think of when a moralizer talks about the evils of "momentary desires." Apparently, wanting Grandma to live her last days with a modicum of dignity is just as sinful.

Hey, Davey -- you know who can afford modern medical care for the elderly without a little financial aid? People like you who can also afford $4 million houses. For us peasants, it's a heavy lift.

The Obama campaign is attacking Mitt Romney for his association with Donald Trump, who's still a proud birther, but Romney isn't backing down:

President Barack Obama's campaign is highlighting what they call Mitt Romney's "refusal" to condemn Donald Trump's continued highlighting of the "birther" conspiracy....

Asked on his charter plane Monday night whether Trump's questioning of Obama's birthplace gave him pause, Romney said he was grateful for all his supporters.

"You know, I don't agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don't all agree with everything I believe in," Romney said. "But I need to get 50.1% or more and I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people." ...

Romney does this a lot: he and his team gently rebuke people other presidential campaigns would cut loose. Romney mildly denounced incivility in general when Ted Nugent made inflammatory remarks about Obama, but he did no more than that -- he is still apparently happy to have Nugent's endorsement. In April, Romney's campaign claimed that immigrant-bashing Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach was a "supporter" and no longer an "advisor" (while Kobach claimed his role hadn't changed), but Romney hasn't repudiated Kobach. Romney stuck by foreign policy adviser Richard Grennell when a look at Grennell's Twitter feed revealed that he'd frequently insulted prominent people in politics, primarily women. (But this loyalty thing goes only so far, of course: when it was clear that Grennell's presence in the campaign offended people on the right -- he's openly gay and a supporter of marriage equality -- he was thrown under the bus.)

Romney seems to be trying to rewrite the rules of toxicity. He seems to be trying to take advantage of his own straitlaced-ness, and of the relaxed rules in general for scandal-plagued Republicans (hello, David Vitter), to give himself immunity whenever an associate offends (as long as the offended parties are merely lefty and centrist). He seems to be telling us that we should let him hang out with anyone he pleases, as a general rule, and that we have no right to judge him by the company he keeps.

Well, he's Republican, so if he's brazen enough about this, he may get away with it.


Here's an Obama Web ad made in response to this. It's not bad:

DougJ has wondered for years whether birtherism would ever go truly mainstream, with centrist pundits arguing that there are "legitimate issues" we really shouldn't ignore. I don't see that happening -- but I see this as a way for the right to declare, by fiat, that birtherism is a harmless eccentricity, and the only problem is that you make too much of it. (That's basically the way the right talks about racism.) That could easily happen. And maybe it could work.

Monday, May 28, 2012


A lot of attention is being directed to a Gallup poll showing Mitt Romney with a 24-point lead over Barack Obama among veterans. And while this is a bigger gap than Obama experienced in 2008, according to exit polls -- he lost them by 10 points, 54%-44%, running against an actual veteran -- this year's veterans aren't representative of the populace as a whole (overall, in the current Gallup poll, Obama and Romney are tied).

As Gallup noted in 2009, veterans are simply more Republican than non-veterans -- and if you check Gallup's numbers on this, you see that this becomes more and more the case among younger service personnel and veterans. In 2009, in the 18-24-year-old group, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 13 percentage points among non-veterans, while Republicans outnumbered Democrats by 18 percentage points among veterans and servicemembers. That's a huge gap.

Beyond that is the fact that, because of wars and the Cold War draft, a large percentage of America's elderly are veterans -- and older people are warier of Obama than any other age group is, as multiple polls have noted. It's a leap to ascribe older veterans' distrust of Obama to their veteran status -- many old people just don't like the guy. Is it because old people disproportionately watch Fox News? Is it racism? Is it health care? I think a lot of it is health care. Bill Clinton lost seniors when he pursued health care reform (and he'd done well among them in 1992, much better than Obama did in 2008). In any case, I don't think older veterans distrust Obama because they're veterans.

There was a kerfuffle yesterday about some things Chris Hayes said on TV about our troops and heroism:

"I feel... uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don't want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that's fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism, you know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers, and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that."

I find it ironic that Hayes would say this at a time when the most controversial tool of the military, at least on the left, is the unmanned drone. Forgive me if I'm sidestepping the question of whether Hayes insulted the troops, but I find myself focusing on the question of whether praise for the troops makes us more bellicose as a nation, and I think the answer is no. If you're the type of person who wants America to go out there and kick some ass, you're happy that we're using unmanned drones. I think you'd be happy to cheer on an all-drone fleet of military aircraft and an all-robot army, just so long as it was smiting the evildoers.

I don't think we're overly eager to fight because we think too much of the troops; I think we're overly eager to fight because of the high regard we have for ourselves. A lot of us think America is a force for good in the world by definition, so we assume that our leaders will always send the troops to fight with a noble purpose, and using noble means. The problem isn't that we call the troops heroes -- it's that we don't question the belief that America is a hero nation.

When I was a child, we were much more irreverent about those who served in the military. I grew up with Beetle Bailey and Gomer Pyle and McHale's Navy. It was OK to treat people in the military as comic figures. Somehow, though, that didn't prevent us from miring ourselves in Vietnam.

I wonder if we're more capable now of decoupling patriotism from bellicosity than we realize. Since 1984, we've elected a saber-rattler president only once, in 2004. (Bush in 2000 actually promised a "humble" foreign policy.) A lot of us like Ron Paul's isolationist rhetoric. The country is ready to be done with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe we haven't been bellicose for years -- maybe we've just deferred to those among us who are most bellicose.

I don't think it's connected with the troops in most Americans' minds. I think we fall for the notion of war, but we don't like it as much as we think we do.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


On Friday I wrote about the right blogosphere's group attack on Brett Kimberlin, an ex-con who's now a lefty activist and, the righties say, a dangerous serial harasser of his enemies. As I said on Friday, if their claims about him are accurate, he absolutely deserves the attention of authorities -- someone who's done what they say he's done ought to be locked up. But they're the only ones telling us this stuff, and (as I also said on Friday) they seem to be doing it primarily to attack liberals and Democrats, and only secondarily to protect their ideological soul mates.

The latest, from one of the self-proclaimed harassees, Robert Stacy McCain, is that Kimberlin is pursuing a "peace order" against another person who says Kimberlin harassed him. That may mean the story is more nuanced than the righties want you to believe it is -- or it may mean that Kimberlin is following the classic pattern of a spouse-beater who tells the authorities he's the one being abused. We just don't know.

And this gets me back to a subject that's come up in the lefty blogosphere in the past, notably during the James O'Keeffe ACORN brouhaha. Back then, Clark Hoyt, at the time the public editor of The New York Times, asserted that the non-right-wing press pursued the ACORN story too tardily, and therefore the Times "would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies." This was met with some outrage and disgust on the left -- but I've always believed that following the stories right-wingers are ranting and raving about is a good idea for the mainstream press, if it's done with the goal of getting the truth out rather than with the goal of appealing to the right-wing audience. In fact, I think it hurts our side -- and the country as a whole -- if the non-right-wing press ignores these right-wing stories. The Kimberlin story could be another example.

Let me explain.

You know the saying ascribed to Mark Twain: "A lie goes halfway around the world before the truth puts on its boots." That's pretty much what happens when the right pushes and distorts a story, while the mainstream press says nothing. That's what happened, for instance, with the "Ground Zero mosque." The right-wing media and blogosphere pushed the story for months before the rest of the media took notice of the right's distortions. The mainstream press eventually pointed out that the "Ground Zero mosque" was not a mosque and was not being built at Ground Zero, that it was being planned with the help of an adviser from Manhattan's Jewish Community Center, that there were already mosques near Ground Zero, and that there were prayer rooms for Muslims in the Twin Towers themselves. But it was too late once all that came out -- the right had successfully turned the Islamic cultural center into a political football.

That's what must be prevented in the case of Brett Kimberlin. In addition to convicting him in the media, the right is already trying to tie him to the Obama administration, and, by inference, to every liberal and Democrat in America. That's only going to continue.

Let wingnuts be the mainstream press's assignment editors? I say yes, but just in order to tell the truth. At worst, we learn that Kimberlin really was a nasty guy; the fact appears to be that liberals and Democrats who may have allied with him simply didn't know that. (Yeah, he's an ex-con, but so is Don King, who once killed a guy, which didn't stop the GOP from expressing delight as his endorsement of George W. Bush in 2004.) Or we may find out that behavior is being ascribed to Kimberlin and his friends that's someone else's doing, or that's being exaggerated and distorted, just to score political points. Either way, the right is prevented from owning the story for the next several months and presenting it in a way that exclusively helps the right. If these hissyfits are ignored, they don't go away.

Hoffmann stared at the tablecloth and let the discussion flow around him. He was remembering now why he didn't like the rich: their self-pity. Persecution was the common ground of their conversation, like sport or the weather was for everyone else. He despised them.

"I despise you," he said, but nobody paid him any attention, so engrossed were they in the inequities of higher-rate taxation and the inherent criminality of all employees.

--From Robert Harris's novel The Fear Index (London: Hutchinson, 2011; New York: Knopf, 2012)

Saturday, May 26, 2012


After 37 years in the Senate, [Pat] Leahy probably no longer knows when he sounds insufferably patronizing....

--George Will in The Washington Post

Remember the Dinesh D'Souza book that charged Barack Obama with getting all his ideas from a father he met only a couple of times? The one that made the cover of Forbes, and that Newt Gingrich was quoting for a while?

Well, now we learn from The New York Times that D'Souza has a fan and financial patron for this work -- Joe Ricketts, the guy who for whom that Jeremiah Wright attack ad was being prepared until the Times wrote about it last week:

... the billionaire investor Joe Ricketts ... is involved in another effort slated for this summer, a documentary film based on a widely criticized book, "The Roots of Obama's Rage" by Dinesh D'Souza, which asserts that Mr. Obama is carrying out the "anticolonial" agenda of his Kenyan father.

Mr. Ricketts's aides said he was one of roughly two dozen investors, providing only 5 percent of the film's budget. But ... Mr. Ricketts's aides also said that he had helped pay for newspaper and Internet advertisements promoting Mr. D'Souza's book in late 2010, one of which called it "the book the White House doesn't want you to read," and warned, "The real Barack Obama is even worse than you think." ...

A spokesman for Mr. Ricketts said that he had supported the book and the movie only because of his friendship with Mr. D’Souza, whom he has known for several years. The two men became acquainted through the American Enterprise Institute, a spokesman said....

The Times doesn't post the film's apocalyptic trailer, or a link to the film's Web site, but you can get those right now from -- where else? -- Fox Nation. Here's the trailer:

And here's joining this axis of evil, with a column from the film's producer, Gerald Molen (he also co-produced Schindler's List, as he and others involved in the film never tire of reminding us). Molen's column is also apocalyptic, as he talks (somewhat incoherently) about the consequences of the 2008 election:

...We failed to hear that horrific sucking sound of our falling into the vortex of calm voices pushing us ever so gently but with assured and deft platitudes, into the hell of our own making.

... We can never lose our awareness that those who perpetrate the lie and the hate by using their best tools of fear and envy and class warfare are alive and well and doing their very best to take our basic freedoms away from us....

Another part of the ongoing dilemma is that the President surrounded himself with self-proclaimed Marxists, socialists, communists and progressives. Why? Is the answer that he embodies some or all of those ideological characteristics? I think so. Each of them arrived with an agenda to turn America into the vision of themselves and the despicable goal of changing America into a European style state of fear and class warfare....

Molen sounds a bit like his patron Joe Ricketts, as quoted in the Times today:

An early glimpse of his views on Mr. Obama can be found in a June 2010 graduation speech he gave at Bellevue University in Nebraska, for which he is a leading benefactor. Lamenting the banking and auto bailouts, he declared, "Our Republic is under assault from our government," adding the historical note that "most of the past threats have come from outside our borders."

He called this "a most dangerous time," when "people begin to second-guess the American experiment" and "flirt with dead-ends like socialism."

Back when Forbes was excerpting D'Souza's book, Adam Serwer looked at his "Kenyan anticolonialist" thesis and wrote:

This is birtherism with big words. This is the witchdoctor sign without Photoshop, WorldNetDaily without the exclamation points. D'Souza doesn't need to stare at Obama's birth certificate for hours to come to the same conclusion as the birthers, which is that the president is a foreigner.

True enough -- but I think the talk of all these guys going beyond birtherism to literal Antichrist-ism. I know right-wingers get this way every time there's a Democrat in office -- D'Souza, in a CPAC video linked at the films site, says Obama isn't "a traditional Democrat" like that nice Bill Clinton, but, of course, the right thought Clinton was the Antichrist when he was in office. I'm just pointing it out because Antichrist-ism is as crazy and conspiratorial as birtherism, yet it isn't denounced the way birtherism is. It wasn't in Clinton's time, and it isn't now. It should be. Ricketts, Molen, and D'Souza are exactly as crazy as Orly Taitz.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Right-wing bloggers are having a group event today: they're all blogging about a guy named Brett Kimberlin. Years ago, Kimberlin was convicted of involvement in a series of bombings; he spent many years in prison. While he was locked up, he claimed to have once sold pot to Dan Quayle, who was then running for vice president; he charged that prison authorities isolated him illegally after the story became public. That was the last time I ever heard his name, but I guess he's been peripheral to my world since -- I gather he was involved with the news site Raw Story and in investigating voting irregularities as a colleague of Brad Blog's Brad Friedman. (Here's a 2007 Time story about the guy.)

The right-wingers who are blogging about him now are blogging about him because, if I understand their story correctly, he's a nasty piece of work who (among other things) has driven righty blogger Robert Stacy McCain into hiding and who's engaged in several forms of harassment against Patrick Frey, aka Patterico; the tactics, Patterico says, include "swatting": you spoof a phone number, call as the person you're targeting, say you just killed someone at your house, then the SWAT team shows up and maybe arrests the target ... or opens fire. Patterico says it happened to him (and he was taken into custody) last year.

Oh, and (wheels within wheels) Andrew Breitbart is involved, because he talked about this in an interview he gave not long before he died, as Patterico notes.

What's the truth here? I have no idea. But several thoughts come to mind.

If this guy is as nasty as the righties say, then I, as a lefty, have no use for him, even if he's doing work I approve of. Call the cops if you think you've got a case against him. Lock him up -- I don't care.

Oh, but maybe you can't get the authorities to take the case seriously. Well then, gee, it's too bad you righties don't have a huge news organization on your side, one that could bring the story to light and pressure the authorities to act. If you had a huge news organization on the right, things might be different. But you don't have such a news organization, do you?

If the story the righties are telling is true, there's a guy on the loose who should be locked up. But their blogswarm today doesn't seem to be focused on getting him locked up -- it seems to be focused (as is practically everything right-wingers say and do) on damaging liberalism. On the right, that's Priority #1 -- and #2 and #3 and #4 and #5. The posts and tweets I've looked at are full of references to George Soros and the Tides Foundation and Barbra Streisand (because, you see, giving money to organizations that include a guy you don't know is a criminal is a disgusting, shameful, immoral act, which makes you an accessory to crimes you didn't know had taken place, and haven't been conclusively shown to be the grant recipient's doing).

And, gosh, it's an election year, isn't it -- a few tenuous, strained links to Obama will certainly be discussed on righty blogs in the days to come, no?

I'm hoping a real news organization tells me the truth about this. I'm hoping this guy is put away if he's a seriously bad person committing seriously criminal acts. I almost think I'm more interested in seeing the responsible party face justice than some of the righties are. A lot of them (hello, Michelle Malkin) seem much more concerned about winning one for their side.

Oh, and then there's this guy:

Read all of the incredible, sick-making story -- which includes some perfectly typical and disgusting bile spewed by some of the violence-supporting left-wing animals who think things like this are just peachy -- and gird your loins. Because it's going to come down to shooting with these vermin eventually, if we're to retain any rights at all. Patterico wouldn't like me saying that, I’m sure; I don’t much like having to say it myself. But it's a mere acknowledgment of current reality: we are in a cold war with neo-Marxists who are trying to steal our country, have already done enormous and probably permanent damage to it, and will stop at nothing --absolutely nothing -- to see to it that our voices are silenced. That war must inevitably go hot, unless we're willing to surrender to them.

"[I]t's going to come down to shooting ... The war must inevitably go hot...." Are you expressing your fears, dude -- or your hopes?

This morning, Mike Allen at Politico's Playbook helped kick off the de-embargoing of David Maraniss's still-unpublished Barack Obama biography, by quoting from a review in The Washingtonian:

"Maraniss's Obama is sympathetic, and in contrast to his exotic background, he emerges as a normal, well-adjusted guy. At Occidental, 'Barry''s Mick Jagger impression was legendary, and as a teen at Honolulu's Punahou School, he was known for snagging joints from his buddies' hands and shouting 'Intercepted!' before taking an extra hit...."

BuzzFeed followed up with extended marijuana-related excerpts from the book, under the title "A User's Guide To Smoking Pot With Barack Obama."

Obama's a guy from my generation (he's two years younger), and what strikes me about the Politico quote is, yes, the fact that Obama just sounds so normal. Hey, I used to do Jagger impressions, too. And that "Intercepted!" thing sounds like every kid anywhere. And it's a football allusion! American football, not soccer or some other socialist sport!

Obama and his friends had favorite hangout spots. They gave a name to one particular friend's reliable ride. They invented rituals that became an in-group language. This is so normal -- and it matters because it cuts against the bizarre portrait the right paints of Obama as a red diaper baby/communist agent-in-training/madrassa-bred stranger to American cultural norms. Trust me -- if you lurk on the right, the picture of young Barack Obama is of a kid in a treasonous hothouse being secretly bred to grow up and destroy America. And really, he was just a typical American kid of his generation.


Today, Peggy Noonan publishes an interview with Mitt Romney so spongy and cottony that "softball" doesn't begin to describe it -- it's more like a Nerf ball interview. ("Do you wake up in a good mood, or do you have to work your way into it?") This is obviously meant to show Romney in the best possible light, and to humanize him -- but even so, Romney can't help himself, and communicates this to Noonan (emphasis added):

Before rallies and town meetings, he always tries to have private, off-the-record meetings with voters. "I sit down with five or six couples or individuals and just go around the table, and I ask them to tell me about their life. And the stories I hear suggest a degree of anxiety which is not reflected in the statistics." He is struck, he said, by the number of people who are employed but in legitimate fear of being let go. He is struck by the number of people who've made investments for their retirement -- real estate, 401(k)s -- and seen them go down.

Wait -- we've been dealing with the effects of this financial collapse for four years, and Romney is surprised to learn that people fear losing their jobs? He's just now figuring that out?

And though the line on Romney is that he's relentlessly data-driven, he apparently has spent four years overlooking the fact that anxiety about job loss is "reflected in the statistics":

* February 29, 2009: People Fear Losing Job the Most: Poll
* September 14, 2009: Lots of Fear Remains Over Economy, Job Losses, Poll Finds
* April 23, 2010: One in Five Americans Fear Job Loss in Next 12 Months
* April 24, 2012: Americans Now Fear Job Loss More Than Tanking Credit

And it never occurred to him until now that middle-class people have 401(k)s, and that they're invested in stocks and bonds, which went down when the economy cratered? No combination of data inputs allowed him to intuit that? He didn't know until he went among the peasants and they explained it to him?

We know Romney has claimed to understand the fear of job loss as it applies to himself. I guess he had to leave his multiple mansions to learn that these fears, and economic hardship in general, affect the common people.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Brad DeLong has posted six questions he asked Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, authors of the new book It's Even Worse Than It Looks, which says that our political main problem is the appalling extremism of the Republican Party.

DeLong also posted one question he didn't ask Mann and Ornstein, and I've been trying to figure out something clever to say about it, but all I can say is that it sums up practically everything I feel about politics in America right now, so here it is:

Look. You two are expecting normal politics to rein in a Republican Party gone bonkers extreme. But it will not work. The press corps will continue to say "he said, she said, yadda yadda yadda" either because they are gutless cowards or because they are bought. In a world of low-information voters, the bonkers extremism and sheer total meanness of the Republican Party will not get through. The only way it could get through would be if moderate Republican barons were to announce that they had had enough and were crossing t'he aisle, and if they did so in a way that they brought their affinities with them. But I don't see Brent Scowcroft doing that, I don't see Colin Powell doing that, I don't see Greg Mankiw doing that, I don't see Marty Feldstein doing that, I don't see Gail Wilensky doing that, I don't see Bob Dole doing that, I don't see Jack Danforth doing that, I don't see Richard Lugar doing that--and I don't see you doing that, Mr. Ornstein. I don't see you calling for the defeat of every single Republican candidate this fall and every fall until the party comes back to reality.

And since all of you moderate Republicans are unwilling to take the only step that might fix the situation on your side, we have to take the only step open to us: We have to stop bringing a set of policy proposals and briefing papers to what the Republican Party has made a thermonuclear exchange. We have to oppose their noise, slime, and lie machine with a noise, disinfectant, and truth machine of our own--and at the same intensity.

That means you moderates need to pick a side and fasten your seat belts, rather than wringing your hands about how the Republicans are being so mean, and you wish they would be less so.”

What can I add to that?

The other six question are pretty good, too, particularly #1 and #6.

(Via Jonathan Bernstein. X-posted at Balloon Juice.)

From CNN:

[Mitt] Romney's campaign is ... raffling a chance to have dinner with [Donald] Trump for supporters who donate to the campaign.

"I want you: Dine with the Donald," a campaign flier proclaims, along with a drawing of Trump.

The campaign offers: "Airport transportation in the Trump vehicle; Stay at the Trump International Hotel & Tower New York; Tour the Celebrity Apprentice Boardroom; Dine with Donald Trump and Mitt Romney."

Here's the "Dine with the Donald" page on Romney's campaign site, accompanied by a drawing that looks as if it was done by a bad Times Square sketch artist wearing a blindfold:

In case you're confused, it is not correct to say that Donald Trump used to be a birther and conspiratorialist. Donald Trump is still a birther and conspiratorialist:

Anyone going to ask Romney about this? Or, for that matter, about Trump's belief that vaccines cause autism?


UPDATE: Good to see birtherism is the main thrust of DNC press secretary Melanie Roussell's response to this:

Once again Mitt Romney is failing the moral leadership test. Instead of rejecting Donald Trump's 'birther' conspiracy theories and divisive attacks, he's endorsing them by campaigning and fundraising with him. Romney has shown time and again that he's not ready to have his John McCain 2008 type moment by speaking out against these types of attacks against the President. This type of false and extremely divisive rhetoric has no place in the political discourse of our country and Mitt Romney should stand up against it instead of standing with Donald Trump to raise money for his campaign.

I can easily imagine Romney canceling this event as a result of too much bad press about Trump's birtherism. Which raises the question: How can we elect a guy president who throws in his lot with a birther and doesn't foresee that this will be a problem for his campaign? Does the heads-I-win-tails-I-win nature of the financial wheeler-dealer world from which Romney emerged just make him incapable of grasping that some decisions are seriously ill-advised?

If I understand the premise of this Politico article correctly, the fact that a bunch of rich people have spent multiple gazillion dollars to ensure that a sitting governor retains his seat while facing recall in the middle of his term, something he's now expected to do by a comfortable if not overwhelming margin, against a candidate who doesn't exactly thrill many of his critics, ought to be enough to propel that governor into the front ranks of U.S. politics. White House, here we come?

...there's a prospect the whole thing might backfire by elevating [Wisconsin governor Scott] Walker into a tested-by-fire, conservative cult-hero....

GOP officials and operatives all agree Walker's got a promising political future if he comes out on top of the recall battle.

"He's a guy who has something to offer his state now and hopefully the country in the future," said former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele....

Wait -- he's the giant-killer? Not the check-writers?

National GOP donors have rushed to his defense, helping him rake in more than $25 million since January 2011 -- with more than $13 million raised in just over three months earlier this year. That included $500,000 from Bob Perry -- who helped fund the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacks against John Kerry in 2004 -- and $250,000 from Sheldon Adelson, a GOP super donor who poured millions into the super PAC that backed Newt Gingrich's presidential bid.

Outside groups have also formed a defensive line around Walker. Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, spent more than $1.5 million on ads defending the governor in the first three months of 2012....

Hell, I could win a recall election in Wisconsin with that kind of scratch behind me, and I don't even know how to milk a cow.

The article's premise is flawed for one reason above all: it doesn't matter that Walker seems like the #1 aggrieved right-winger who fought the hated liberals right now, because by the time, say, 2016 rolls around, there'll have been thirty or forty new aggrieved right-wingers who fought the hated liberals to take his place. There's always a new one! There's a new one every few months! The right is like an assembly line churning out aggrieved people three shifts a day, seven days a week!

So yeah, Scott, it's quite possible you'll win. But watch the throne -- there's stiff competition for the title of Top Right-Wing Victim. Ask Sarah Palin, who thought she had it locked up four years ago.

I thought Elizabeth Warren's Senate campaign in Massachusetts was doomed, but it's just the opposite:

Elizabeth Warren is largely unscathed by the weeks-long controversy surrounding her ancestry, according to a new Suffolk University poll released Wednesday evening.

Unscathed? She's not unscathed -- she's gaining, big time:

The survey shows the Massachusetts Democrat trailing GOP Sen. Scott Brown by a single percentage point, with Brown netting 48 percent to Warren's 47 percent. The result marks a measurable shift toward Warren since the last Suffolk poll in February, which had Brown up 9 points, 49 percent to 40 percent.

... Since then, Warren has been ensnared in a round of unflattering stories questioning the credibility of her claim that she is 1/32 Cherokee.

Is it too much to argue that that attack is actually helping her?

A plurality of those polled -- 49 percent -- believe Warren is telling the truth about being part Native American. Just 28 percent said she was not being honest while 23 percent weren't sure.

A plurality of 45 percent also believe she did not benefit by listing herself as a minority at Harvard or the University of Pennsylvania, where she also taught.

More than two-thirds of voters -- 69 percent -- said Warren's Native American heritage listing is not a significant story, with just 27 percent saying it is.

You know how this would work if the parties were reversed, don't you? If an attack like this were launched against a Republican, we'd spend half a day talking about the charges ... and then two weeks responding to cries of "media bias!" from the right-wing noise machine. By Day Three at the latest, the press would start beating itself up for running the story at all. We'd spend all our time talking about the characteristic viciousness of the win-at-any-cost Democrats and the shameful collusion of the scandal-mongering liberal media. We'd forget about the charges altogether.

Shortly afterward, polls would show that the public was shrugging off the charges ... which, somehow, is what's happening to Warren, even without a noise machine. I don't know how that happened. Maybe the public is genuinely unimpressed by stories like this that don't seem relevant to job performance. Maybe a lot of voters have family stories about interesting forbears that they know may or may not be true.

But the poll also says that Obama leads Romney in the state by 25 points. So why is Warren only tied with Brown? A couple of problems:

Warren's greatest strength? 49% of likely voters say she'll represent middle class families better than Brown.

His biggest asset? 47% of likely voters say he'll be more independent than Warren.

... a key finding that could boost Brown: 56% believe Massachusetts would benefit by having one Democrat and one Republican in the Senate...38% say no.

Damn blue-staters. In the red states, voters vote for Republicans. In Democratic states, voters want to be reasonable. And that's how the GOP winds up controlling everything. That's why we can't have nice things.


AND: Warren's favorables are going up, though so are her unfavorables:

Warren's favorability rating has risen 8 points since February, to 43 percent, although her un­favor­able rating has also increased 5 points, to 33 percent, perhaps reflecting Brown’s attempts to portray her as an elitist.


Brown, who has worked hard to burnish his everyman image, is viewed more positively than Warren.

Fifty-eight percent of voters said they view him favorably, up 6 points from February, while 28 percent said they view him unfavorably.

Niceness: once you can fake that, you can get away with anything.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


This is getting a lot of attention:

"Pro-Choice" Americans at Record-Low 41%

The 41% of Americans who now identify themselves as "pro-choice" is down from 47% last July and is one percentage point below the previous record low in Gallup trends, recorded in May 2009. Fifty percent now call themselves "pro-life," one point shy of the record high, also from May 2009.

Why is this happening? Well, I've written about this several times, most recently a year ago. For me it always comes back to the theory articulated in this L.A. Times article from 2000:

Typically when abortion rights are threatened, support for legal abortion rises, according to polling experts.

In the last decade, for example, previous polls show support for Roe peaking at 56% around 1991, when the decision was under attack across the country....

In 1992, the Supreme Court issued a decision upholding Roe, with some modifications. The same year, Clinton, an abortion rights supporter, was elected president. Both events appeared to reassure people there would be no dramatic changes in abortion policy. Subsequently, support for Roe began to decline.

In a 1996 poll, 46% of respondents endorsed Roe vs. Wade. By 1999, support had slipped slightly to 43%....

Look at the graph. Notice when the numbers were almost as much in the "pro-life" direction as they are now: 2009, just after the pro-choice Barack Obama took office. Abortion rights seemed safe, so people drifted away from the "pro-choice" self-identification.

Now look at the last time "pro-choice" beat "pro-life": 2011, a few months after the overwhelmingly anti-abortion GOP class of 2010 took their oaths of office in Congress, state houses, and state legislatures. Abortion right seemed under threat, so more people decided they were pro-choice.

What's going on now? Well, President Obama has recently gone out of his way to make sure you know he's a champion of reproductive rights. And another Gallup poll taken this month says that Americans believe Obama will win reelection, by a landslide 56%-36% margin.

So Americans think Obama will be president for four more years, therefore abortions right aren't threatened. And again they're drifting out of the "pro-choice" camp.

But just you wait: If Mitt Romney wins, "pro-choice" will be beating "pro-life" again.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)

I'm reading through the Mark Halperin interview of Mitt Romney. Remember the way right-wingers said in 2008 that Barack Obama was acting as if he had supernatural transformational powers? Remember how they said that Obama supporters believed he was just going to magically transform America as a result of his wonderfulness?

Well, I think Mitt Romney thinks he's "The One" now:

Halperin: So a lot of these changes though, the tax and spending changes, kick in January 1. You wouldn't take office until January 20. Does that worry you about what that might do to the economy in terms of confidence, in terms of perception?

Romney: Well actually if I'm lucky enough to be elected the consumers and the small-business people in this country will realize that they have a friend in the White House, who is actively going to encourage economic growth, and there will be a resurgence in confidence in this country and a willingness to take risks, to invest, to add employees. I think it will be very positive news to the American economy.

That's right -- he's going to magically make economic trouble go away weeks before taking office! His aura is going to do it! He's just going to exist, and troubled economic waters will be stilled!

Halperin is asking him about the "fiscal cliff" -- the impending need to raise the debt ceiling, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, automatic spending cuts that are due to kick in. Romney just says his mere fabulousness will prevent all this from being a problem:

Will I be able to get done between January 1 and January 20 the things that I'd like to do? Of course not, I'm not in office. But I believe that we will be able to have a grace period, which allows us to tackle these issues one by one and put in place a structure, which is very much designed to get America working again.

He's just going to hold economic budgetary problems at bay using his sheer Mitt-ness. Trouble will just sit and wait patiently until he's darn good and ready!

Call Shepard Fairey! Call! Call Oprah! He's definitely the new One!

On Monday, National Review Online posted an article by Kevin Williamson that portrayed the Republican Party as more or less singlehandedly responsible for the advancement of African-American civil rights, with the resistance to that advancement being overwhelmingly attributable to Democrats. Yup, according to Williamson, the GOP has always been the pro-black party and the Democrats have always been anti-black. I'd rebut this pathetic attempt to win non-white voters to the Republican Party, but it's already been eloquently and thoroughly debunked by Jonathan Bernstein, by Adam Serwer, and (most thoroughly) by Jonathan Chait. I have nothing to add to their fine takedowns.

What's odd, though, is that two days after the posting of the Williamson article, we have an electoral result that actually seems to support Williamson's thesis: President Obama failed to crack 60% yesterday against "uncommitted" in the Kentucky Democratic primary and against a white nonentity in the Arkansas primary, two weeks after failing to crack 60% against a white felon in the West Virginia Democratic primary.

Now, plenty of us on the left -- Alec MacGillis, Zandar, BooMan -- are perfectly willing to say that this reflects lingering racism among fairly conservative voters in Appalachia and the Upper South who still regard themselves as Democrats, and are still registered with the party. We say this even though we believe that the Democratic Party as a whole is far more committed to racial justice than the Republican Party.

But when right-wingers are handed electoral results that could actually be interpreted as supporting their Dems-are-the-real-racists! thesis, what do they say? Let's go to Bryan Preston at Pajamas Media:

I Told You They Would Blame Obama's Awful Kentucky and Arkansas Results on Race

Wait -- shouldn't these guys be the ones blaming the results on race? Aren't they the people who think Democrats have cornered the market on racism? Weren't they just saying this two days ago?

Ah, but you have to understand: given the choice between trying to win over African-Americans with honey or vinegar, they just can't stick with the honey. They could say, "See? Racist Democrats insulted Obama" -- but they'd rather say, "Oh, that pathetic Obama is such a loser." They'd rather insult the first black president, a guy who has near-universal African-American support.

Really, they just can't help themselves.


Barack Obama's real opponent spoke at the Reagan Library yesterday, and we really should take him seriously:

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan predicted Tuesday that November's elections could bring a broad mandate for the Republican Party to enact aggressive reforms to the nation's finances.

In a nearly 30-minute speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Ryan ... called for changes to taxes and entitlements that Ryan said would parallel Reagan's first year in office.

"We will not only win the next election -- we have a unique opportunity to sweep and remake the political landscape," the Wisconsin congressman said....

Do you doubt that Ryan will be the real president of the United States if Mitt Romney is elected? I'd listen to what Grover Norquist said in his CPAC speech in February: he said that he and his brothers-in-arms in movement conservatism "just need a president to sign this stuff. We don't need someone to think it up or design it." By "this stuff," he means stuff like the Paul Ryan budget.

But wait -- who's that off in the distance? Why, it's the ragtag army of that other Paul guy:

With their favorite having lost the nomination for president, [Ron] Paul's dedicated band of youthful supporters are setting their sights down-ballot and swarming lightly guarded Republican redoubts like state party conventions in an attempt to infiltrate the top echelons of the party....

In Minnesota, Paulites stormed the Republican gathering in St. Cloud last weekend, bumping aside two conventional Republican candidates to choose one of their own, Kurt P. Bills, a high school economics teacher, to challenge Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, this fall.

Backers of Mr. Paul, a Republican congressman from Texas, crashed Republican conventions in Iowa, Maine, Minnesota and Nevada in recent weeks, snatching up the lion's share of delegate slots for the Republican National Convention in Tampa this August....

And Paulite candidates for Congress are sprouting up from Florida to Virginia to Colorado, challenging sitting Republicans and preaching the gospel of radically smaller government, an end to the Federal Reserve, restraints on Bush-era antiterrorism laws and a pullback from foreign military adventures.

Ands a trust-fund Paulbot just bought a GOP primary victory for an ideological soul mate in Kentucky.

It would really amuse me if -- spoiler alert! -- what's happening to the GOP eventually turns into the end of Wild in the Streets, with crazies having fully seized control and rallying around a young, smug leader ... only to be challenged by even younger (and even less self-doubting) extremist absolutists.

Up to a point, of course, there should be no conflict -- the Paulbots and the Paul Ryan-bots agree that policies on taxation, social services, and business regulation should be those of the Gilded Age. They can agree on auditing the Fed. Maybe they'll even agree on the gold standard.

But after that, what? Conventional Republicans of the Paul Ryan stripe aren't going to forswear military adventurism and chest-thumping jingoism -- rallying the nation against some swarthy evildoer of non-European descent has been far too useful a weapon in the GOP's arsenal over the years. Give that up? Not gonna happen.

I suppose some of the Ron Paul types will just learn to stop worrying and love the bomb, while others will drift back over to the left, wandering in the wilderness and wondering whether Russ Feingold or Rocky Anderson will run for president third-party. But it would be amusing if this were a future conservative crack-up.

On the other hand, these two wings of the far right could be our two-party system in the near future. I say this because, while I'm heartened to learn that the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA is actually increasing its focus on Bain Capital (despite whining from across the political spectrum about the supposed inappropriateness of attacking Bain), I see the future of the Democratic Party in the mewling of folks like Cory Booker, Ed Rendell, Harold Ford and others -- in the future, Democrats won't even utter empty platitudes about the people vs. the powerful.

In that case, why will there even need to be a Democratic Party? The only ideological fight in America will be in the GOP, between plutocratic isolationists and plutocratic neocons. Or the latter will simply win and we'll be a one-party state, as disillusioned Paulites go off to write sci-fi novels.